2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 13
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


WHITE, Douglas W.1, WILCH, Thomas I.2, LINCOLN, Timothy N.2, MORSE, Jeremiah T.2 and ANDERSON, Steve M.2, (1)Dept. of Biology, Albion College, 611 East Porter St, Albion, MI 49224, (2)Albion College, Dept Geological Sciences, Albion, MI 49224, tlincoln@albion.edu

Since 2000, a total of 22 students and 10 faculty have monitored Rice Creek as part Albion College’s 10-week summer research program. The project is funded by the Environmental Institute and Foundation for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity at Albion College, and by an EPA Section 319 watershed planning grant. Rice Creek, a 4th order tributary to the Kalamazoo River, drains a 90 mi2 rural watershed in south central Michigan, just north of Albion. Environmental concerns, including nonpoint source pollution, channel dredging and straightening, municipal wastewater discharge, and proximity to a concentrated animal facility, are assessed in biology, chemistry, geology, and history student research. Geology studies include analysis of stream flow and water quality conditions and GIS mapping.

The opportunity to work on a real-world environmental problem is rewarding and motivating for participants and generates publicity for the College. The requirement to adopt approved protocols and meet quality control standards is a key lesson for students. Summer research projects lead to senior theses and meeting presentations and are integrated by faculty into their courses. The interdisciplinary scope strengthens interactions across campus and forges links between the College and watershed stakeholders (including local citizens and government officials, regulators, and conservationists).

The strengths of the project are also its challenges. There is a steep learning curve to adopt protocols and master new equipment. The needs of meeting regulatory demands limit research flexibility. The integration of the different studies to address the project goals stretches the bounds of student research. Faculty and student participation outside the summer field season is an ongoing issue. Having worked through these challenges, we plan to continue real-world interdisciplinary stream monitoring beyond the current Rice Creek project.